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Sharp Health News

The benefits of a beard

May 3, 2022

Man smiling on the couch

If you already have a beard or are thinking of growing one because you like how they look, you may be pleasantly surprised to learn the perks of having a beard are more than skin deep. There are also health benefits to having half your face cloaked in facial hair.

“Beards can protect your face against the elements, such as keeping your face warm from the wind and cold weather,” says Dr. Mona Mofid, a board-certified dermatologist affiliated with Sharp Grossmont Hospital. “Depending on the thickness, it can also shield your face from the sun’s harmful UV rays.”

Dr. Mofid notes that 20% of Americans get skin cancer over their lifetime. When it comes to the face, cancer tends to occur on the left side. This is because UV rays come in high contact with a driver’s left half of their face because we drive on the left side of the road in the U.S. Conversely, in England and Australia, where they drive on the right side, skin cancer develops mostly on the right side of the face.

“A beard may help protect against skin cancer by keeping UV rays from harming your face,” says Dr. Mofid.

Your beard can be an allergen barrier
If you have asthma or allergies, a beard might also reduce the risk of having a flare-up or other respiratory issues. According to the American Lung Association, a thick beard may act as a filter — trapping smoke, pet dander and other asthma triggers from entering your lungs.

However, there is a caveat. A bushier beard may keep germs out of the airways, but if those germs — whether pollutants, bacteria or viruses — remain trapped in your beard, they may eventually find their way into your body, causing health problems.

“That is why it is important to clean your beard regularly,” says Dr. Mofid.

From combing to moisturizing: how to care for your beard
Dr. Mofid offers these tips for proper beard hygiene:

  1. Wash your beard and face every day to remove germs, dirt and dead skin cells that can build up. When washing your face, use a gentle cleanser instead of soap to prevent your skin from overdrying.
     
  2. Use a moisturizer or beard oil to soften beard hairs and skin. Moisturizer prevents your beard from feeling prickly and dry, while also protecting the skin beneath it.
     
  3. Use a beard comb to spread the moisturizer or oil evenly. You can also use the comb to detangle and style your beard.

If you are growing out your beard and in the stubble phase, you might have to deal with ingrown hairs. To prevent ingrown hairs, use a scrub to gently exfoliate your skin 1 to 2 times per week, and then moisturize afterward. Use a moisturizer with an SPF 30 or higher to protect your skin until your beard becomes thicker.

Avoid razor bumps when shaving your beard
The average beard has 6,000 to 25,000 hairs. These hairs grow at an average rate of 0.27 millimeters a day. At some point, you’ll want to shave and trim your beard. But shaving, if not done right, can cause skin irritation as well as razor bumps and burns.

According to a study, skin irritation is one of the most common complaints of shaving, with two-thirds of men reporting irritation. Intense irritation typically occurs on the neck. The neck is a challenging area to shave because hair can grow in different directions, and skin on the neck tends to be rougher and looser.

“To ensure that you don’t irritate or damage your skin when shaving, it’s essential to prep your skin beforehand,” says Dr. Mofid. “This includes wetting your beard, face and neck with warm water, and using shaving cream.”

Shave in the direction of hair growth. This will prevent bumps and burns. And don’t forget to rinse the razor blades after each swipe. Blades should be replaced after five to seven shaves to prevent irritation.

“With proper technique and care, you can achieve not only an aesthetically pleasing beard, but also a healthy beard,” says Dr. Mofid.

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